Did you hear about Mariah Carey’s (maybe) split from her fiancé, Australian billionaire James Packer? A rep for Carey told Entertainment Tonight that the pair just had a fight while vacationing in Greece, and the singer “has not seen him since.”
We know — you can so relate. But, seriously … what if you can kind of relate? If your engagement, or the engagement of someone who you know, were to get called off, what would you do with the ring? Or, rather, what should you do with the ring?
“Circumstances generally determine who will get the ring. If the bride called off the wedding, she might offer to give the ring back, and if the groom canceled the engagement, he might opt to forfeit the ring,” Diane Gottsman, modern manners and etiquette expert, tells Yahoo Beauty.
Elaine Swann, lifestyle and etiquette expert says: “The ring is a promise of marriage, and the promise goes both ways. If either one of them breaks that promise, the ring should be returned,” Swann tells Yahoo Beauty. But what if the bride refuses to give the bauble back? “That’s a tough one,” Swann concedes. “There are a lot of emotions that go on [in this situation]. The bride’s knee-jerk reaction might be to keep the ring. In my opinion, he should back off and let things cool down, and then ask for the ring again. It is reasonable to ask for the ring back.”
And if you happen to be balancing a $10 million diamond ring on your finger, like Carey? Gottsman says the jewelry’s monetary value shouldn’t impact the decision. “Of course, if one person invested heavily in the ring and the other broke the engagement, it would be civil and polite to offer to give it back,” Gottsman says. That Carey and Packer’s breakup was supposedly acrimonious could also change things. “When heated emotions get involved, it gets sticky,” Gottsman notes.
If the engagement ring is an heirloom, though, that’s a different story. In such a case, Gottsman says, “It should go back to the family of origin.” And premiere wedding website The Knot concurs. Editors there interviewed Caroline Krauss-Browne, an attorney in the matrimonial department at Tenzer Greenblatt LLP, who said, “If the ring were an heirloom of extraordinary value, the laws of equity would probably override in a situation like that.” The site urges you to consult with an attorney to learn the legal specifics in your state.
Greenblatt also disagrees with both of Yahoo Beauty’s experts on whether or not a bride-to-be should hold on to the ring. According to The Knot, her take is, “In accepting the ring, the bride-to-be promises her hand in marriage. So long as she is willing to fulfill her promise, she has given consideration for contract. So if he breaks it off, she can keep the ring,” Greenblatt explains. “But if she breaks off the engagement, she signifies that she is no longer willing to keep the promise, and in this case, she should not retain benefit from the agreement (the ring).”
Interesting. But what if the bride does offer to return the ring, but the groom-to-be insists that she keeps it? “It’s a nice gesture; he might be offering it as a consolation prize,” Swann says. “I would suggest that the bride-to-be — if it’s a verbal offer — get it in writing that he’s confirmed he’s offering and she’s accepting, so if he changes his mind later, she may have some recourse.” Swann says an email is fine.
With so many layers involved in this situation, we can’t help but propose a new precaution: Engagement-ring prenups, anyone?